Earthjustice is representing a diverse coalition of conventional and organic farmers, dairies and agricultural associations, and environmental and consumer groups in challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s decision to deregulate a variety of alfalfa genetically engineered to tolerate exposure to the herbicide glyphosate. Earthjustice, together with the Center for Food Safety, is challenging the deregulation under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Plant Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
The USDA’s decision allows growers to produce alfalfa without restriction or oversight of any kind. This likely will result in substantially increased use of the herbicide glyphosate, which is toxic to most plants and some animals, particularly fish and amphibians. It likely will also result in additional weeds evolving glyphosate resistance, use of more toxic herbicides to kill such weeds, and contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa crops, with associated socioeconomic impacts and loss of farmer and consumer choice.
Known as the “queen of forages,” alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. Because alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly and cross-pollinate between fields and feral sources many miles apart, the engineered crop will contaminate natural alfalfa varieties. As a result, organic dairies stand to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products. In addition, the latest USDA data show that less than 10 percent of alfalfa acres are sprayed with any herbicide, and consequently, GE alfalfa will dramatically increase the use of such chemicals across the country, with all of their attendant hazards to wildlife, plants, groundwater and people.